By News desk
U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to use emergency powers to bypass Congress and pay for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, as a partial U.S. government shutdown over the issue stretched into its 20th day.
As he departed Washington for a trip to the Texas border with Mexico for wall-related events, Trump attacked the Democratic congressional leaders, who oppose his wall-funding demand, as less “honorable” than China, a rival power.
“I find China, frankly, in many ways to be far more honorable than crying Chuck and Nancy. I really do. I think that China is actually much easier to deal with than the opposition party,” Trump said, referring to House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer.
Trump is insisting that a government funding bill to end the shutdown must include $5.7 billion for a border barrier – his signature campaign promise. The standoff has left a quarter of the federal government closed down and hundreds of thousands of federal employees without pay.
A day after he stormed out of a meeting with Pelosi, Schumer and other Democratic leaders that was aimed at finding a deal to end the funding standoff, Trump headed to McAllen, Texas, on the Mexican border to highlight what he has argued is a crisis.
After the meeting Schumer accused the Republican president of “temper tantrum” tactics and Pelosi called Trump “petulant.”
Trump said his lawyers had told him he had the power to invoke national emergency powers to get his wall funded, a course of action that Democrats have said may be illegal.
“I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency,” Trump told reporters as he left the White House. “I’m not prepared to do that yet, but if I have to, I will.”
If Congress fails to bend on the border wall funding, Trump said he probably would declare an emergency. “I would almost say definitely,” he said.
The declaration would circumvent Congress’s power over the national purse strings, giving Trump the ability to redirect money from the Department of Defense to his proposed wall.
Such a step likely would prompt an immediate legal challenge over constitutional powers from congressional Democrats. A subsequent court fight could be protracted, making room for the shutdown to be ended in the interim. The final outcome would then be left up to judges, not the president and Congress.
Even some Republicans who want to build a wall have said they do not want money to taken from the military for it and others see it as an overreach of executive powers.